Freemium to Premium
Most base level entertainment is free, it is also so dripping with
sponsorship, adverts, and commercial cutaways that it is almost
unwatchable. But it is free.
In many ways, CE looks largely like the typical lay out of television offered today. There is always going to be a general interest in Medical Drama, Legal Procedural, SitCom, Period Drama, Reality Drama, and the rest. The area where this changes in the Cosmic Era is that these shows become customizeable for the viewers.
Set Dressing - the viewer can influence the set dressing of the show, to make it more interesting for them. The most common form of set dressing change is localization, moving said program to their general vicinity. Thus, there is a Law and Order for literally every arcology, geofront, and other location in it's viewing zone. There are variations that include sponsored upgrades, with branding and embedded adverts and product placements.
Acting Talent - Since so much of the industry is computer rendered and generated it is easy to plug and play with different actors and actresses. This is a licensing option, and while there are stock and sponsored characters on the programs that are fixed, much of the supporting cast is variable. Watching the snarky comedy about the alcoholic media personality with anger issues and the hot secretary, but you would prefer to replace the vacuous blonde with a stabby little redhead, or a Freddie Jones jock look alike, you can, but it will cost you.
Rating Adjustment - G rating and PG rating are stock, but with a swipe of a multikard, the content can jump to R or X. Violence becomes more realistic, sexual themes can go from implied to explicit, and so forth. The reverse of this is that content can be downgraded for more general consumption, or to watch more expensive programming at a cheaper setting. Watching the full season of the Tittyville Murders at it's standard R-X (hard R, soft X) is pricey, but bumping it down to a family friendly G rating cuts the cost by 95%. There is no nudity, and the murder is all implied, but the story is still conveyed enough for the cheap viewer to still have experienced it.
Sponsored Content - SC is a term given to programming that is basically advertising with a minimal plot and story attached to it. This content is fairly popular as it allows viewers to build up entertainment credits to spend on upgrading their other programs. Why pay to bump Law and Order: Cyber Crimes from PG to R when watching an episode of Everyone Loves Chrome will net you enough freebie points to do it, nothing out of your pocket.
Plot Devices and Choose Your Own Sitcom - a fairly common trope, this aspect of entertainment media basically allows for the viewers to swipe their cards to vote for what they want to see, which buxom resident doctor will the smoldering doctor hunk hook up with? Who gets voted out of the skyship? Should the teens make out, or should they pick up their guns and shoot at the slasher? You get to choose, votes are aggregated 24 hours after the release of the FITR (fork in the road) episode.
A popular genre in media programming is Expy Entertainment, where the protagonist of the story is an expy of the viewer, and utilizes their MUSE avatar and self image. Thus, many people watch entertainment that features themselves going and doing things. This in and of itself is fine, but it is typically presented as a buy/build your own adventure. The more vanilla and sponsored content you use, the cheaper it is. The more top shelf and focused stuff you use, the more expensive it is. The variable in the equation is that the typically story tropes are not set in stone. The boy very well might not get the girl, at least not the first time. After a few kard swipes, with an avatar wardrobe upgrade, and some stat boosting items (blending RPG elements with typical media programming) and some banging accessories, then the boy gets the girl, or the girls, or whoever they wanted to get.
User Gerrald Overcourt of New Nuyork is a power programmer, with a level 27 Expy. It wasn't easy getting his expy up that high, but there was some backlog grinding. To get his expy wit up, he powered through all 17 seasons of That Show About Nothing, getting a top 100 high score by the end. To power level his expy physical stats he ran through COPS: New Nuyork three times. The raise his Persuasion, charm, and seduction, he spent almost a week's stipend to get through The Sexy City, and succeeded in hooking up with all four of the protagonists. The Expy Overcourt is handsome, with a razor sharp wit and the skills of an action movie hero and the stamina of a professional pornstar. The real Overcourt is a pale complected bachelor living in the lower levers of New Nuyurk Arco 6, who struggles with anxiety and Intense Introversion Disorder.
Random Boxes contain things that are of interest to program viewers, usually a mix of wardrobe items, set decoration, usable items, and items relevant to the plot of the program they are enjoying. These are a cheat or a pay to play intrusion into the program.
Character Icons - Most programs start with a relatively small cast, but new cast members are released either through promotional offers, or through accumulating character points. Medical Drama was okay, with just Hunky Resident, Grumpy President, and the two supporting doctors, but it really got interesting after the first character packs were released, there were seven new supporting doctors, including two specialists, and the epic drop had a cross over character from the supernatural medical drama.
Plot Devices - The story hinges on the completion of a task or finding a certain item, the item is very difficult to find through the story, and only the most diligent viewers, with high level Expies can find it. The easier method is to start dinging Random Boxes until one of them drops the plot item, or enough points of the plot item to advance. In Police Procedural, the detectives are looking for a missing person, but that person can't be found until they find the person's broken MUSE. Finding it required a level 25 or better Procedural or Investigation score from an expy. It is a rare item in a random box, appearing once in every 100 basic boxes, and guaranteed to be in the gold box.
Survival and Horror programs depend on this, with the boxes turning into supplies and items for the cast of the program. Basic users will watch the aliens kill the space marines, the slasher kill all the hot nubile girls, and the terrorists win by blowing up the arcoplex. A bit of random boxing can see these losses turned around into draws, near escapes, and such. Gold and power programmers can turn the tables, hunt down the alien queen, demask the slasher, and kill the terrorist leader themselves.
Rare, Elite, and Epic Items - These items are the hotly desired mods, upgrades, and unlockable characters and expanded content that viewer clamor over. Cross over characters from another program, putting characters in permanent lingerie, replacing the coffee haus with a strip club, upgrading the hero's pistol with a plasma rifle. COPS: Atlantic City was good, but getting Cybernetic Cop as a main cast member completely changed the tone of the program. Five stars.
Literally putting your money where your mouth is, programs can be crowdfunded. Through the course of the season there are going to be 'fundraiser' type events, where in exchange for sending the program money, the viewers get special items, and contribute towards the next season. Thus, popular programs continue on and on, entering a sort of exploitative zombie mode. This is in contrast to the previous model where only studio execs and sponsors had a hand in picking what was picked up for further production.
I consider this one of the upsides of the Cosmic Era. One of the biggest changes is that there is no longer scheduled media. Shows don't come on at a certain time, and there isn't valuable prime time, and so forth. Everything has since moved to the mobile on demand model and aside from fixed time events, like races and sports events, everything runs streaming. People can watch whatever they want, when they want, and that means they don't miss programming because of commitments, work schedules, and so forth. The industry can't put a show they dont like in a dead spot or a slow night, because all time slots are obsolete. Shows with strong following can pick up new seasons via fan spending, ensuring niche things remain popular.
Streaming programs aren't completely crowd funded, the largest source of revenue remains advertising and sponsorship. This appears through programs in the form of commercials and sponsored content. This can be as unintrusive as the doctors in Medical Drama having Chrome drinks in the break room, to as obtrusive as the McGuffin in Police Procedural being the new MUSE 99, with hands free operation and increased synapse response quality. One way to get around some of this pop up advertising is to purchase a subscription to the program in question. This would be tiered, with gold level members opting out of 90% of adverts, all the way down to the regular schlubs who have to sit through the commercialized dialog with the cast members discussing the importance of Euphonia, the happy pill, before going back to deal with the critical trauma in ER 1.
Many programs, especially those aimed at children and young adults involve 'character collection'. This involves regular viewing, show interaction, and commercial indoctrination, in exchange for said new character of the week. With the move away from material consumerism and commercialism, the lure isn't selling toys and copycat clothing, it's selling virtual characters and skins for avatars.
After watching the first season of Ninja Action Masters, the viewer has enough points accumulated to 'purchase' all four of the Ninja Action Masters, as well as either both token side kicks, or the Action Master Sensei. Unfortunately, there were 13 enemies of the week, 7 allies of the week, as well as the Big Bad, and his two elite henchmen. The only way to get them was to purchase random boxes, outright purchase the individual characters, and some were only available for a limited time, and could only be gotten during that time.
Dating Sim programs are functionally similar, with the goal being to seduce/become romantically involved with as many characters as possible, with the common setting being new characters are only unlocked after conditions are met. The next girl in Babewatch doesn't unlock until the viewer reaches Friend level with the previous girl, and there are Epic and Celebrity level girls who aren't unlocked until very specific criteria are met, such as having a dozen babes at Completion level.
War and military dramas work the same way, but the viewer collects mecha, tanks, femme fatale cyborg assassins, and so forth.